Turnitin Marks Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Yesterday, Thursday May 19, marked the fifth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). A worldwide event highlighting how disabled users engage with technology, GAAD is something we at Turnitin have been proud to be involved in for several years running. The purpose of GAAD is to get people talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) accessibility and users with different disabilities. GAAD promotes awareness and encourages involvement in the community, and emphasizes Turnitin’s commitment to addressing accessibility needs through the services we provide.

To mark GAAD, Turnitin hosted a day of activities across our international offices, highlighting the needs of differently-abled users and how they can be addressed throughout the development process.

At our UK office in Newcastle, the day kicked off with a presentation from Ross Linnett, CEO of web accessibility software company Recite Me. Ross shared his experience of dyslexia and the formation of Reciteme, as well as his inspiring personal philosophy: “just go for it!”

But rote learning of formal principles has fallen out of fashion. Our collective revulsion to that which we deem ‘cold’ or ‘technical’, while well intended, has swung the pendulum toward writing as primarily (and, might I add, merely) about self-expression.

Allan Milne, software engineer and advocate for accessibility in web design, then spoke of his experience as a visually-impaired coder and the importance of screen reader-compatible design.

In the Oakland office, we started by listening to a brief message from CEO Chris Caren and a brief talk from Charles Hoffman on Automated Accessibility Testing before jumping into the activities of the day. The activities touched on topics such as visual impairments, hearing impairment, mobility impairment, and color blindness.

The most popular event turned out to be the visual impairment exercise hosted by Chloe Lim which asked teams of two to describe and draw a simple image while one team member was blindfolded. This event helped to expose the simplicity (or lack of) under which instructions can be communicated to an individual who cannot see what you are saying to him or her. Another popular event was the mobility impairment exercise which explored the use of a foot mouse and onscreen keyboard to perform common tasks associated with Turnitin products and services.

The other events included the following:

  • Playing the popular game Simon blindfolded by relying on your ability to distinguish unique tones
  • Using an accessibility screen reader on a mobile device in order to understand the instructions for a NFC based cognitive challenge that required participants to roam the office floors looking for NFC tags on everyday objects that, when activated, relayed information to the participant on what steps to perform next
  • Using an iPad and printouts as of means of creating a walkthrough of the different types of colorblindness that a person may experience when looking at and interacting with everyday objects

With plenty of food for thought and much discussion about Turnitin’s commitment to inclusivity and usability, our teams came away with a deeper awareness and understanding of accessibility and the importance of a positive user experience for all.

Thomas Gray, Senior UX Experience Designer, commented: “It was an illuminating day, full of insight and humour. It was a really positive experience for the whole team, and we can’t wait to do it again next year.”

In 2015, special guest speaker, Lucy Greco, who is the web accessibility evangelist for UC Berkeley and the Chair of the Electronic Accessibility Leadership Team at UC, spoke at the Oakland HQ about the importance of web accessibility and demonstrated how assistive technologies help her to access the web.

Accessibility and usability are a core part of the Turnitin mission. We are actively working to make our learning technologies easy to use and accessible to everyone, regardless of disability or circumstance. Find out more about our commitment to accessibility.